I am going to lay it all out. I have been so afraid to. When there was such an outpouring of love online for my situation I asked my friend Ruth not to say it was me. I did this because I was afraid the love would come to a screeching halt! I know that sounds weird and it has to do more with how I feel about me. As I write this I hate me. I hate that I didn’t protect my kids better, I hate that I didn’t stand up for my family, I hate that I see some of those ugly traits from TBM’s in my kids because they learned it from me. I hope that through letting it all out I can make some friends who can love me with all my faults and know that I am trying to do better everyday. I love people. All people. I need people in my life. So, if you hate me like I hate me, that is fine. I am a Mormon convert, and from the wrong side of the tracks, When I met my husband his mom asked me if I had a middle name since she couldn’t call me by my real name because it was alcohol. Leah isn’t my real name;) My family moved to Rexburg two years ago after finding out that our kids had been sexually assaulted by their stepbrother, my stepson. When we found out our world was shattered.
When I approached my bishop, (bishop K), in the back of sacrament with tears streaming down my face and told him my stepson had been arrested for abusing my kids, I was met with a contentious stare. I told him that serving in YW was to much for me right now. I was teaching 14-15 yr olds and I took it very seriously. I told him I didn’t have the energy to be able to properly prepare the lessons. At that time I was worried about the girls not getting the lessons they deserved, not that I might need some support too. Bishop K glared at me and said, “let me know when you’re willing to serve again.”
During those dark days, I could barely get off the floor. I would wait until the kids left for school and collapse on the floor and cry for hours. How was I supposed to serve?
One Sacrament meeting I couldn’t stop crying so I had to leave and go home. My therapist called Bishop K and told him I desperately needed support. He told her I was at church and was fine.
I made an appointment to see the Bishop a few week later. I begged him to please tell the RS president or to assign me a friend. Again I was met with contempt. He asked me if I coached the kids or asked leading questions and so on, regarding their abuse. I explained that I personally cleaned the blood from my sweet baby girl’s (3yrs old) body, that my kids had all had forensic exams on their little bodies, and that my stepson had admitted way more than we even knew about. My stepson was charged and convicted. He continued to ask about the perpetrator’s well being. He asked if we were visiting him regularly. Not once did he ask about the victims, my children. I told him that my 10 year old daughter, just wanted to shake his hand. (Our previous Bishop knew all the kids by name and would shake their hands). That was all the my sweet girl was asking for. After the meeting Bishop K walked out looked at my, 10-year- old square in the eye, and walked away. My husband and I were in shock.
You would think that this would anger me to no end but it didn’t. I had learned to put my self worth in the hands of the Priesthood. That worked well when all the bishops loved me. In my mind was I thought because the Bishop was treating me like this, then Heavenly Father must feel the same way towards me and my kids. But why? Why did Heavenly Father not love me? Why did He hate my kids? They were innocent!! Was it because He hated me and by default, they get shafted? I grew up in foster homes, groups homes, and at home where I wished to be back in a group home. I had no sense of belonging anywhere. So when I joined the church, 14 years ago, I knew I was home. I finally found my home. I was an instant TBM, just add water! I put all my faith in the priesthood and slowly lost faith in my own promptings, strengths and ideas. I was so exited to find a place I belonged, a place I could serve non stop just to show how grateful I was that these beautiful members allowed me to be a part of their church. When the Church turned its back on me I knew that feeling all too well. If my own mom couldn’t love me then why would I think God could? But please God don’t turn Your back on my kids, that was my prayer…
At the same time, the perpetrator’s Bishop was a blessing. Before my stepson went to jail the Bishop would ask when is he going to jail. He was amazing enough to recognize his congregation was not safe. What about the little boys in the bathroom when my stepson was in there? My stepson had no preference in sex, he abused both boys and girls and animals. This Bishop sat down with my husband while they were chaperoning a youth dance. They found a room and the Bishop cried with my husband. I was so grateful for the little glimmer of hope he gave us.
I decided that maybe, possibly Bishop K was wrong and so I decided to fill my lamp by bypassing the bishop and going straight to Heavenly Father. I felt my strength coming back. I felt so guilty for thinking that the Lords anointed could be wrong. I wrestled with that.
The Victims of Violent Crimes Compensation Board decided to give us an emergency relocation fund to get us out of Alaska. My husband had a good paying job, our kids had been going to school with the same friends since they began school. Alaska was all my kids knew but, we knew it was what we had to do. My husband quit his job and we left everything behind in Alaska and got on a plane. We decided on Rexburg because my husband had got his associates degree at Rick’s. Little did we know that most of his classes form Ricks wouldn’t transfer to BYUI. My husband was unemployed for eight months.
Before we left, we met with Bishop K and told him the good news and that we would be moving to Rexburg and both of us would be going back to school. He got really angry and stern and asked how we could leave my stepson behind, in jail and alone? We tried to ignore the comment and asked for him to sign our ecclesiastical endorsements. He said he would sign my husband’s but he would not sign mine because he didn’t see me at the ward picnic! Something snapped in me and I stood up, grabbed the endorsement from his hand and said, “I don’t need your endorsement,” and walked out. Oh man it felt good!
After we got here to Rexburg we had a great Bishop. Times were really hard though. We had 4 of the 7 kids with us, all traumatized. We had one at BYU/Provo, one in jail and my 17yr old stepson in Alaska with his mom. I got called to be in the YW. On top of that at Christmas my husband and I got called to the Christmas party decoration calling.. We made a ton of decorations and I was busy with YW and I cried A LOT. It was so hard to fulfill those callings with children in turmoil. I had no Idea I could say no!
Before we left Alaska, taking my kids to therapy was a full time job. We had 7-9 appointments a week. After we got to Rexburg I tried to find my kids a therapist. There are not many. I took my youngest who was now 4yrs old to a lady who worked for LDS social services. She wanted me to tell my 4yr old every detail that had happened to her. I couldn’t even read the charges without wanting to kill myself there was no way in hell I was going to read them to my baby.
During this time, my 8yr old son was diagnosed with a Chiari malformation in his brain, and needed surgery. He had his surgery at Primary Children’s Hospital. He was in the Neuroscience Brain Trauma Unit for a week. Around the same time he swallowed bucky balls had to have them removed in a emergency surgery, them split his head open and had to go to the emergency AGAIN!! Traumatized kids seem to always get hurt.
The Primary sent him letters from the other kids and gifts to open each day he was there it was really thoughtful. I felt support in a lot of ways in that ward but also felt very alone. In the wards I have been in since my kids were sexually assaulted I have been told not to tell anyone,s so I didn’t for a long time. I have been in my step kids life for 10yrs so it is natural for me to say I have 7 kids when people ask. I accidentally did that in a presidency meeting. They started asking where the other ones were. I glazed over it the best I could but now everyone knew my step kids names. I was so afraid they would ask my kids about their brother “____”. I worried about it for a couple days and finally worked up the courage to against the Bishop’s advice and tell the YW president. Shouldn’t she be aware that she had a SA survivor in her YW program? I told her everything. She said she would call the first counselor (her husband) because he is a therapist. She said he would call to help…he never did.
The YW moved on and did activities that I was supposed to be in charge of. I am sure they were trying to help but it just felt like they were turning their backs also. I asked to be released.
While all this was going on, my 17yr old stepson was calling me and saying he was going to commit suicide if we didn’t let him come live with us. We took him in.
When he got to Rexburg my kids began to have night terrors and wet their pants again. We thought it was because he reminded them of their perpetrator stepbrother. We were so wrong. Turns out he was abusing them. My brave kids had enough therapy that they finally told…again. That stepson is now waiting for the DA to refile in adult court and is facing 99yrs for abusing his siblings. the kids had had two perps in their lives.
Because my husband was unemployed for so long, and trips back and forth to Utah for my son, and therapy, and my poor heath, we were broke. We cashed out my husband’s retirement and lived on that. My husband got a job for BYUI making less then half of what he made in Alaska and only 30 hours a week so we burned through his retirement fast. With mounting bills we started sinking fast.
Right before before Christmas the kids disclosed the additional abuse. from the other step son. I loaded the kids up and moved to Oregon. I was running. I couldn’t take it here anymore. I thought if I left they would leave my son alone and give him some time to heal before having to testify. I was wrong. We had to travel back and forth to see the DA and for my son to basically be re-victimized over and over and over. The DA here wanted/wants my now 9yr old son to testify. My son had been through so much. When can he heal? The DA told my son that if he testified it would help his brother repent. WTF? I was tired of the manipulation and didn’t let my son testify that day. As of right now we still have to prepare my little guy for a long trial with a jury and he doesn’t want to. I understand the need to protect other kids and my son should testify but he can’t. It is breaking him.
Oregon is a magical place. A perfect place to heal. I wanted it to be my our home. In Oregon we would go to the ocean and just be. No pressure, no judgments. I am a big lady. My kids have never seen me swim. I have Graves disease and Lupus. My health is rapidly declining. After I got radiation twice on my thyroid it killed my thyroid so I gained a lot of weight. After moving to Rexburg with all the stressors, judgments, llack of support, I gained another 100 pounds in the first year there.
I felt that the ocean was so healing and the Oregon people were so NONJUDGMENTAL! I actually went swimming with my kids and no one even did a double take. No one cared that there was a huge momma swimming with her kids. Someday Oregon will be my home.
We were so blessed when genesis service dogs had compassion and matched my son up with the perfect best friend who was raised to be the BFF to someone with PTDS. He has changed our lives. If anyone would like to donate to a nonprofit please consider them. They are amazing people who raise these dogs out of love. They even lets us stay at their house and we went to church with them. The pastor knew I was Mormon and was still so kind and accepting. He even gave me a coffee cup! I may have filled it with coffee and to finish the last 5 hours of our dive. SHHH don’t tell my Bishop! HEHE
My husband moved in with his mom and sent us as much as he could. With him being the only one who can work we fall well below the poverty level with his wages from the university. I couldn’t make it in Oregon. My husband’s work was asking him when we were coming back and he was afraid of losing the only income we had. So here we are back in “zion” with medical bills mounting and kids basic needs not being met. So, I went to the Bishop…. Bad Idea
TO BE CONTINUED….